Sunday, 15 November 2015

Belated Update...

Whew!! Heading off to England for a week tomorrow, and realising how useless I am at maintaining this blog lark!!
So, what's been happening?
With apologies to those of you who have sent in other stories of interest:
With the luxury of two (Stuart Bearhop and Kerry Mackie) canon-netters present, the first catch of the season was carried out, on the traditionally more difficult inter-tidal zones at Strangford Lough, on 04 November 2015. Catch site was Cross Island (for those of you who know your old stones, it's on the way down to Nendrum Abbey) and a respectable 11 birds were caught. More importantly, these 11 birds included 7 young. This is important, as the young become birds of "known age". To date, one of these families has been recorded, the other yet to be - perhaps you'll be the first to do so?
On the Moray coast, Bob Proctor continues his almost daily records of 36WW, one of our birds, with an unringed mate and 2 young. What makes this of particular interest is that there is a single juvenile, the only other bird nearby, which sometimes seems to be accepted by the family, at other times not. Currently, as of today, the message appears to be not. An interesting insight into possible adoption, initially sparked off by Patricia Watson, who had a pair with 8 juveniles!!
Then there is 2DRR. I recorded it the day after ringing, in March 2013, as having a speckled breast, and wondered would that continue following moult. The answer to this is a resounding yes! Variably recorded as leucistic since then, I was delighted to again report it from Pig Island, Strangford Lough on 02 November 2015 as "having a speckled breast". So clearly these plumage aberrations are not a one-season wonder. That is based upon this bird, but we have unfortunately not caught many of these untypical birds.
Bruce Taylor reports 4ARR, a Dublin-ringed bird, staying on the Isle of Barra between 31 October 2015 and 03 November 2015. Usually these birds are "Scottish islanders" due to weather conditions on their way in to the main wintering grounds, but it possibly indicates that there are more birds yet to arrive.
Finally, today, as part of my WeBS count on the southern shores of Strangford Lough, I recorded 222 brent geese (none there last month), and managed to read 10 ringed birds located out on one of the roost islands. The southern area holds the most of the geese which stay on Strangford Lough for the remainder of the winter, so perhaps this is an indicator that birds are moving nearer you (if you live away from Strangford Lough, of course!!)

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Catch-up, With A Few Random Updates and Thoughts...

Records of ringed birds are now starting to flow in from away from Strangford Lough.
Bob Proctor, who has been closely reporting on the long-term presence of 36WW at the Lossie Estuary on the Moray coast in NE Scotland, which is at the divide between the "our" East Canadian High Arctic flyway population and those from the East Atlantic flyway, reports the arrival of yet another of our marked birds, on 25 October.
Records by numerous observers indicate that at long last birds are starting to filter down into the Dublin area, although as yet in small numbers, with recent records from Dublin Bay, Malahide, Rogerstown and Baldoyle.
Significant numbers of brent (200+) have been present in Dundrum Bay, Co. Down since the start of the month, and many of the ringed birds there, which mostly have not been recorded staging through Strangford Lough, are accompanied by good-sized broods.
Sandy Alcorn reports a couple of ringed birds from Ballyness Bay, near Falcarragh in Co. Donegal on 16 October. Birds from here are particularly of interest, as it is located at the NW corner of Ireland, which could be expected to be used by birds either migrating in directly from Iceland, or birds moving round from places like Lough Foyle.
Much further afield, Ray Bennett, a hunter in Labrador, NL, Eastern Canada, reported shooting Z4LY, a bird we ringed as a juvenile on Strangford Lough last autumn, on 17 October, 2014. This bird is, from memory, one of only three or four of our birds which have been recorded apparently trying to move down the eastern seaboard of North America, rather than taking the normal route over Greenland. One of the latter birds actually ended up down the St. Lawrence River in USA!! Whilst of course one regrets the passing of such birds, the fact that hunters actually report such records to us is extremely valuable, so many thanks, Ray.
In Sligo, Martin Enright has continued to record marked birds from Sligo Bay, where peak numbers seem to be around the 260 mark.
Tonight comes the news, from Henry Cook, of the first ringed bird to be read in Wales this winter, at Conwy Bay. BDWW, ringed at Greyabbey, Strangford Lough in autumn 2005, has been recorded almost annually from this general area in Wales, so great to see it back there again!
Also today, Alain Livory and Roselyne Coulomb have reported that they recorded their first hrota at Regnéville, in Normandy, France, the numerically most important site nearest the currently proven southern limits of our flyway , on 19 October. They report still only about 20 present today, but including at least 11 juveniles!

Finally, on a subject nearer home, Patricia Watson has taken this photograph of a flood protection wall currently being built adjacent to the main road at the southern lagoon at North Bull, Dublin City, which a lot of you will know as part of one of the most important sites for brent geese  in Ireland. The wall on the right is what exists at present, the wall on the left is what is rapidly being built. It is understood that this section of road has never been subject to flooding in the past, and political representatives support the view that the consultation process with locals has been limited.
Not only is the wall going to soon obscure, from those driving into Dublin, one of the most iconic views of Dublin, other brent goose observers, including Miryam Harris, are reporting that it is causing disturbance to those geese already arrived in Dublin. Anyone wishing to see more can enter "stop the sea wall dollymount" into your search engine, where there are a number of videos, showing what is happening on the ground. It is understood that there is now an on-line website for people to sign an objection, for which details are not yet available.


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Database Milestone...

On entering records into the database tonight, it passed yet another milestone - 160,000 sightings of marked birds! This makes it one of the larger databases involving a single species. Many thanks to each of the 1,036 observers who have contributed to my repetitive strain injury!!

Apologies to all of you currently awaiting feedback on records. This has largely been due to the intensive ring-reading effort going on at Strangford Lough by Alex Portig and myself, whilst the big numbers are present (photos show the scene at a small section, a few days ago, and the influence of a rapidly incoming tide!!). On several individual days recently, between us we have added around 250 records, helped by the unusually clement weather in recent weeks, which now appears to be ending.... I am currently nearly a month behind, but will be trying to catch up - please bear with me.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

An Oldie, but a Goodie...

Given the numbers I found present (157) last Saturday at highish-tide during the Brent Goose Census, I decided to revisit Mill Bay this evening, on the County Down side of Carlingford Lough, on a lower tide.
Amongst the 116 birds counted today, there were three ringed birds, and one of these was special - ISYY. ISYY, with its cross-banded I, which I ensured we replaced for future ringing with a straight I (because of possible confusion with T), was one of the project's very first catch, at the Wexford Slobs, on 13 February 2001, and has been a regular visitor there over the years. I see that I last recorded it on 18 April 2013 on Annagassan Beach, Dundalk Bay, County Louth on 18 April, 2013. Ringed as an adult, this bird is now 14+ years old. The rewards of long-term monitoring!!...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Report from Galway...

I had a report today from Jenny Young, from the Office of Public Works in Galway, which I thought I'd share:

I saw your website and thought I would let you know that I've seen huge numbers of Brent geese flying over western county Galway. I work for the OPW at Aughnanure Castle, Oughterard, Co. Galway, close to the western shores of Lough Corrib, and my colleagues and I have spotted numbers of geese flying over the castle on a daily basis for the past two weeks. They're very noisy and fly in groups of about 20-30, usually in the afternoons. One of the guides here has lived beside the castle all her life and says she has never seen them before. I have worked at the castle a number of years myself and I have never seen anything like this. It's really amazing to see (and hear!) them!
Anyway, just thought I'd let you know. I don't know if this will help you in any way at all but it can't hurt!
Kind regards,
Jenny Young
The recent Census has shown that there are very few birds actually located in Galway Bay. It therefore seems likely that these birds are moving down to their main wintering sites in Kerry, particularly at Tralee Bay, and at Castlemaine Harbour. Numbers recorded during the Census at Tralee Bay have shown a marked recent increase. This ties in with my own anecdotal thoughts, that there has been a significant movement of birds into Strangford Lough from Iceland in recent days.

The view from the northern part of the flyway

No - I don't yet have pictures of Brent migrating south through Canada or Greenland - maybe some day!

Gudmundur, Svenja and Finnur-Logi (pilot who also knows his birds!) surveyed the large bays of Faxafloi and Breidafjordur in western Iceland on Saturday, counting just under 5,000 Brent in 4 1/2 hours. They have not yet managed to age Brent while they fly away from a moving aircraft at 500+ft (!!) so we have to satisfy ourselves with the count.

Joking about that, of course, it is great that the tradition of synchronising autumn surveys of western Iceland with the main sites at Irish/British latitudes is continuing as it enables us to get a complete picture of the size of the population. A few pictures of the aforementioned attached. Enormous thanks to all. Takk!

International census: update (14th October)

Thanks to all the observers who have been sending in count information from all corners of the flyway - a comprehensive aerial survey of Western Iceland (Gudmundur & Svenja) , NW and NE Scotland (John and Bob), and as far south as northern France (Alain) - where geese have not made landfall as yet.

The preliminary total is just over 32,000 individuals of which around 10% are young birds born last summer and which have made it this far. That is from the major sites (Strangford, western Iceland and Lough Foyle in addition to a range of sites holding smaller numbers).

Earlier today, the flock of 178 at Dundrum Bay (see picture) comprised a lot of family units (28) with an average of number of juveniles per family of just under 3 (2.93 to be precise). So a pretty successful year. Just under half of this flock were juveniles (82 of 178; 46%) and you wouldn't want to be estimating overall productivity just on this small sample!!

Thanks for all your efforts over recent days - count data from various parts including the E coast (Down - Dublin), Tralee and Castlemaine will just about finish the assessment for this autumn. The total may well rise to over 35,000. Watch this space...